Pistachios are packed with great overall nutrition including phytosterols, polyphenols, other antioxidants (some carotenoids), vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are one of the best nuts to get all of these nutrients, especially since they are low-fat. What they do have is “good fat,” the unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated). The nutrients in pistachios make them a heart-smart snack. They are rich in the amino acid arginine, which in moderate concentrations can help relax blood vessels. The vitamins B6, B12 and folate reduce elevated levels of homocysteine, known to damage blood vessels when too high. The nut’s potassium helps bring down high blood pressure and maintain proper muscle and nerve function (especially valuable for the heart). The antioxidants protect water-soluble and fat-soluble areas of the body, especially in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. When oxidized, cholesterol becomes “sticky” and more easily adheres to artery walls, leading to plaque buildup. Antioxidants also protect against oxidative damage to DNA. Since DNA is used continuously to create new proteins, we need to protect it against “corruption” leading to mutation and loss of proper function. Fiber provides many key benefits. It promotes smooth digestion, helps expel potentially toxic substances faster and regulates blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Fiber also gives a quick, long-lasting satisfied feeling that leads to eating less often. Pistachios are a rich source of phytosterols, known to decrease the absorption of cholesterol by 30-40 percent and lower serum cholesterol in the blood. Pistachios may promote visual health from their high carotenoid content. They are also a great source of minerals that serve as cofactors for activating enzymes.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – B6 (Pyridoxine), B1 (Thiamin), K, B9 (Folate), E, B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin) and B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Minerals – Copper, Manganese, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium and Iron
Eating pistachios regularly may help reduce the symptoms and risk of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, constipation, diabetes, colon cancer and possibly many other cancers.
How to Grow
Pistachios love a dry warm climate like that by the Mediterranean Sea. They grow to 20-25 feet. In nature, pistachio trees have the male and female flower on separate trees, but for home gardens, nurseries have grafted female trees with male branches such that only one tree is necessary to produce nuts. If planting more than one tree, space them 20 feet or more apart. Pistachio trees take a number of years before they begin to bear heavily. After the fifth year, they bear a little. It takes another 10 years to reach full maturity and full productivity. Time to plant is in the spring. Buy a grafted cultivar adapted to your area from a local nursery. In general, they grow best in areas with cool winters and long, hot summers. They are thoroughly drought resistant. Pistachios need a site with full sun and deep soil with excellent drainage. Work in a modest amount of all-around planting mix rich in organic matter and nutrients. Taking care not to disturb the grafting point, dig a wide hole and set the tree down inside so that when filled in the soil will just cover the root crown. Water deeply more frequently when they are young. Once established, water only occasionally. The fruits are a dark red color and grow in clusters like grapes on the branches. During harvest time, the fruit husk surrounding the shell will loosen and release the nuts. Lay a sheet underneath the tree to catch them as they fall.
Pistachios are safe from pests. Consult with a nursery, and pick a cultivar that resists common infections in your area.
You may have to shake the tree to release the ripe nuts. Let them to dry for 1-2 days. They store well for months in a sealed container in a dark, cool spot.